Art and German Society, 1900-1930 : The Expressionist Style
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The author traces the evolution of German art and culture at the beginning of the Twentieth Century and the inevitable clash of Expressionism with National Socialism. Most Expressionists sought an art which conformed to internal needs, hardly able to conform to specific biological or historical normative demands. Also, in Twentieth Century art, there developed a spirit of internationalism akin to the artistic expression of the Middle Ages or Baroque period, a spirit quite evident in the universalist philosophy of Expressionist art. This spirit of internationalism in Expressionist art contradicted the obsessive nationalism in Germany. More importantly, Expressionism could never be made an instrument of nationalist political ideology. It was a movement founded upon the free-flowing nature of the artist's "inner-being," hardly manipulatable, unlike the rational, mechanical Futurist movement in fascist Italy. Similar to the dictum on art in the USSR during the last fifty years, the National Socialists demanded that art be generally understood, and that this standard would determine the quality. After 1921, often great art is not immediately recognized or understood. The National Socialists, thus, found little value in art which deviated from the forms found. Finally the requirement that art be immediately comprehensible underscored another primary concern of the National. Socialists: art must illustrate an idea or moral and be beautiful.